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Utah asking for feedback on emergency alert cellphone messages for those entering or exiting state

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) The state line in Wendover dividing the Utah and Nevada sections in Wendover, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. This weekend, the Utah Division of Emergency Management went to Twitter to ask for citizen feedback on cellphone alerts sent to those driving across nine state border crossings. The alerts ask travelers to fill out a questionnaire about their coronavirus status, travel plans and possible symptoms.

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This weekend, the Utah Division of Emergency Management went to Twitter to ask for citizen feedback on cellphone alerts sent to those driving across nine state border crossings.

The alerts are intended to go to drivers who are entering the state of Utah, asking them to fill out a COVID-19 entry declaration form regarding any symptoms they’ve experienced and their previous whereabouts before coming to Utah.

Utah.gov

But the system used to send the alerts has had a tendency to send them to people they aren’t intended for. For one, the state can’t distinguish whether someone is entering or exiting a border, so those leaving the state also get the message.

In addition, many residents of towns near the border received the alerts as they went about their daily lives. Some reported receiving the alert as far as 80 miles away from the border, and one Duchesne County resident said she deleted over 80 messages from the alert system.

To try to minimize those false positives, the Division of Emergency Management reduced the area of the polygons used to trigger the alerts on Sunday. Because the system works similarly to an Amber Alert, the division doesn’t receive information about who receives the alerts unless they fill out the entry declaration form or a feedback form the state created for the purpose.

The state plans to send the alerts until May 1. On a FAQ page created about the program, the state noted that it won’t pull drivers over for not filling out the entry form.

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